Vichy

Jews

I came across an odd historical fact.

The background is the cluster of events that took place between May 1940 and November 1942.

In May 1940, Germany invaded France and came to peace terms with the French under which the southern half of France was not occupied by the Germans, but rather was governed as Vichy France by the French themselves under Marshal Petain. History had decided that the arrangement was too cozy a collaboration to be called a victor-vanquished relationship.

The northern half of France was occupied by the Germans. And those Frenchmen who were outside France and didn’t like the Vichy peace terms, maintained a Free French government in exile.

In December 1941 the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbour, and immediately afterwards, Germany and Italy joined with Japan in declaring war on the United States.

And in Syria, the Vichy government’s forces fought and was forced to sign an armistice with the British and Free French in June 1941.

Meanwhile, and here is the strange thing, Vichy France maintained dilplomatic relations with the United States. And it did so until the Allies invaded French North Africa in November 1942. At that point, Vichy severed diplomatic ties with the United States, which then shut its consulate in Marseille.

So in that eleven month period, a citizen of the U.S. could travel around in southern France, a country ultimately under the control of a Germany – a country with which that U.S. citizen’s country was at war, and with which his/her country’s allies (Britain and Free France) had recently fought. More than that, the United States had a consulate operating in Vichy France. How strange is that?

I wonder what transpired in any meetings between German and U.S. citizens in Vichy during that period. Did they just politely nod to one another?

Come to think of it, ‘Casablanca’ – the Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman film could be just that – an American in Vichy controlled Morocco during that period. Though to be sure it could be set in the period before the U.S. entered the war in December 1941. I guess there may be clues or statements in the film about when it was set – a good excuse to watch it again, and closely.

And now reading about the film at filmsite.org I find:

The Hollywood fairy-tale was actually filmed during a time of US ties with Vichy France when President Roosevelt equivocated and vacillated between pro-Vichy or pro-Gaullist support. And it was rushed into general release almost three weeks after the Allied landing at the Axis-occupied, North African city of Casablanca, when Eisenhower’s forces marched into the African city. Due to the military action, Warner Bros. Studios was able to capitalize on the free publicity and the nation’s familiarity with the city’s name when the film opened.